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Belgrade Media Report 13 January 2019

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Monday 13 January 2020
LOCAL PRESS

• Vucic: Taiwan is an integral part of China (RTS/FoNet)
• Vucic: The time of Serbia’s acting irresponsibly is over (TV Pink/B92/Tanjug/Beta)
• Dacic, Shieb discuss situation in Kosovo and Metohija (Tanjug/Beta/RTS)
• Djuric: Albanians not united as they used to be (TV Pink/Tanjug)
• Lutovac denies DS is divided (N1)
• Election threshold to be lowered to three percent (Politika)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• HR Inzko: RS is not state and it cannot secede (Dnevni avaz)
• HR Inzko announces he will file report to UN SC because of Dodik’s statements on RS as state, RS politicians strongly criticize this announcement (Nezavisne)
• Salkic: Announcements about secession of RS endanger peace in B&H (Dnevni avaz)
• Komsic: Serbia does not respect CC B&H decision by which RS Day is declared unconstitutional (Hayat)
• French Senator Meurant: RS Day is proof of patriotism and love for people, there is nothing negative about it (ATV)
• Russian Embassy to B&H does not agree with assessment that marking of RS Day is unconstitutional (RTRS)
• West is breaking you apart because it cannot dominate (EuroBlic)
• Dodik and Serbian officials deem there should be discussion on UK government’s document that proves RS leadership had no intention of occupying Srebrenica (ATV)
Croatia
• Plenkovic says EU, UK should show maturity in negotiations (Hina)
• Croatia’s EU Presidency new chance for SE Europe (Hina)
• Milanovic’s presidential term opportunity to improve Croatia-B&H’s relations (Hina)
Montenegro
• Boskovic: We protected Montenegro’s territorial integrity and independence (CDM)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Pazin: Law on Freedom of Religion was adopted so that everybody can have equal rights (BBC)
• Von der Leyen: EU must keep its promise to North Macedonia and Albania (Politico)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic: Taiwan is an integral part of China (RTS/FoNet)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic conveyed a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping  that Taiwan is an integral part of China. “The Republic of Serbia strongly supports the preservation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the People’s Republic of China, absolutely supporting the ‘One-China’ policy and the efforts of the Chinese side to peacefully unite the country. For the Republic of Serbia – Taiwan is and will be, an integral part of the People’s Republic of China. The Republic of Serbia denies Taiwan’s independence and denounces any attempt to threaten the unity of the People’s Republic of China and the results of your policy, which is based on sound principles of peace and stability.” Vucic once again thanked the Chinese President for the support to Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and for support in international organizations.

 

Vucic: The time of Serbia’s acting irresponsibly is over (TV Pink/B92/Tanjug/Beta)

 

I am always ready to talk to Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, but we have to worry about 28.73 percent of Serbs in Montenegro, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said. When asked about the relationship between him and Djukanovic, he said it was in the interest of both sides that the work be done for the benefit of all. “We have constructed a Serb house that no one wanted in Montenegro, we set aside money for Serbian institutions, without endangering the sovereignty of Montenegro. I have never been on an official visit to that country. I spoke with Djukanovic in Tirana and made my point, I am sorry that the ruling party in Montenegro is angry and this is evident in their statement. I am always ready to talk to Djukanovic, but we have to worry about 28.73 percent of Serbs residing in Montenegro. I always say if you have a rational answer to offer, please do so. I am proud of the Serb people in Montenegro who hold their heads up.” He also says that some accuse him of failing to ‘pull an ax’ on Montenegro, while others blame him for alleged ‘aggression’, which comes from Appeal 88. “I will not send tanks to Montenegro, the time of Serbian irresponsibility is over,” Vucic says, adding that it is time for agreements, but not to the detriment of Serbia. “It is rational and responsible. Those who would make war would go to war for 24 hours and then end up in the cafes,” he noted. He does not believe Montenegro will change its decision on the controversial Freedom of Religion Act, but believes that this has raised awareness of the Serbian people in Montenegro. “Not only in Montenegro, but also in Serbia, Republika Srpska (RS), how much Serbian people feel injustice, because everything that is allowed to others, it is not allowed to Serbs… I shared this view with the international community as well,” he said, adding that we are not in an easy position. Vucic said that he was personally convinced that Minister Zorana Mihajlovic had nothing to do with the case that resulted in the arrest of Director of Railways Infrastructure Miroljub Jevtic. “I didn’t hear anyone mentioning Zorana, my personal belief is that Zorana has nothing to do with it, I fully trust her,” Vucic told Hit tweet. He pointed out that there was no conspiracy theory, Jevtic was caught by police red-handed, with money on the spot, the police did a great job, showed that it would arrest the directors of public companies if they broke the law, Vucic said. Zorana Mihajlovic, Serbia’s Construction, Traffic and Infrastructure Minister, yesterday dismissed allegations about being connected with the apprehending of acting general manager of the Serbian Railways Infrastructure, Miroljub Jevtic. “I was not involved in any way and have nothing to do with the charges over which the acting general manager of ‘Serbian Railways Infrastructure’ Miroljub Jevtic was arrested,” the minister said adding that she expects the competent judicial bodies to do everything that law prescribes, and that she will be at their disposal at any moment. Vucic emphasized that she acted wisely and made a good statement. “She acted smartly and waited for the time to pass, without making any nervous moves,” Vucic said. Vucic said that he is happy about the existence of RS but has never questioned the integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina. He said that RS could not survive without Serbia, but added that he did not know how Serbia would survive if it remains without RS after everything we’ve been through. “I am not hiding that I am happy about the existence of RS. I am proud of the fact that Serbia has never provided greater assistance to RS. It is our obligation, in each of the 63 RS municipalities, to build a kindergarten, a school, a health center, because of close relations with people from RS,” Vucic said, announcing that he would soon go to Drvar where he would open a factory, which he said, he promised to the people. Little attention has been paid in Serbia to the SDA programming document, which he said was discussing how to remove Serb municipalities around Sarajevo and how to de facto abolish the RS. “I am exposed to pressure because of relations with the RS, more so because of Kosovo, but that is my job. I just want Dayton Agreement to be respected and what is written in the BiH Constitution,” Serbian President concluded.

 

Dacic, Shieb discuss situation in Kosovo and Metohija (Tanjug/Beta/RTS)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic and German Ambassador to Serbia Thomas Schieb expressed readiness to make efforts to improve bilateral relations between the two countries this year. In addition to the exchange of opinions on the most important aspects of bilateral cooperation, Dacic and Schieb discussed the current situation in Kosovo and Metohija and the relations in the Western Balkans region. They concluded that at this moment it is of essential importance that the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue be continued as soon as possible. Dacic and Schieb voiced expectations that the EU and Western Balkans Summit that will be held in Zagreb in May will give an additional impetus to the European integration of the countries of the region and to the overall development of their mutual relations.

 

Djuric: Albanians not united as they used to be (TV Pink/Tanjug)

 

“The Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija are not united as they used to be,” the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric told TV Pink, pointing that it is not important for the Serbs who will be form the government, but that they are gathered around the monolith bloc of the Serb List. “Whether it will be Kurti or Murti who will form the government – in the end they are all separatists. What is important to us is that we have Serbs gathered around one monolith bloc that nobody can divide,” said Djuric, adding that the Serb List won 10 out of ten mandates reserved for the Serbs. Speaking about the attack on Kosovo Assembly deputy speaker Slavko Simic, Djuric says that this is an attack on a Serb in front of a family house, who was previously intimidated, but that unfortunately such incidents are a daily thing for the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. “Before the attack, Simic fiercely spoke about the fact that expulsions of Serbs must stop and that it is unacceptable to exert pressure on the Serb List, but I spoke with him and we agreed that this should not prevent us in doing our job, and this is to be with the people in Kosovo and Metohija and to resolve their problems,” said Djuric.

 

Lutovac denies DS is divided (N1)

 

Democratic Party (DS) leader Zoran Lutovac denied that there are different factions within this party but that there is a “small group of persons who have their own stance and opinion.”

Speaking to N1, Lutovac dismissed the allegations about divisions in the DS, stressing that the party’s bodies passed all important decisions almost unanimously. Explaining the reasons behind the boycott of upcoming elections, he said the opposition’s goal is to have fair and free elections, where all parties will enjoy the same conditions. “We will cast our vote in the first free and fair elections. The purpose of the boycott is this, to fight for free elections. And those who are with us now will be our rivals. We’re not giving up part of our voters this way, we’re devoted to all voters who should get the right to vote under free and fair conditions,” he added.

 

Election threshold to be lowered to three percent (Politika)

 

In  the forthcoming parliamentary and local elections, only three percent of votes will be needed for entering parliament, Politika reported. Quoting a high-placed source in the government, the paper reported that the law on electing members of parliament and the law on local elections, which state that only tickets that win at least five percent of votes may enter parliament, would be amended at an extraordinary session of the Serbian parliament in early February. The decision on lowering the election threshold from five to three percent, for which the ruling coalition has a majority, according to Politika, will make it easier for smaller political parties and coalitions to enter the parliament.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

HR Inzko: RS is not state and it cannot secede (Dnevni avaz)

 

The Office of the High Representative (OHR) issued a statement on Saturday, commenting on marking of 9 January as the Day of Republika Srpska (RS). The statement reads that celebrating the Day of the RS on 9 January shows clear disregard for the rule of law and open contempt for decisions of the court. The OHR reminded that the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) addressed the compatibility of January 9 as the Day of the RS with the Constitution of B&H, and found it unconstitutional. Reiterating that he does not oppose the Day of the RS as long as it is organized and celebrated in accordance with the existing legal framework, High Representative (HR) Valentin Inzko noted that respect for the rule of law is a prerequisite for any modern democracy. “Rule of Law is not an a la carte option. Decisions of the Constitutional Court of B&H are final and binding and must be respected in the entire B&H”, said Inzko, and added that commemorating the Day of the RS in a manner that insults or intimidates other citizens, including returnee communities, is beyond comprehension and must be sanctioned by the competent judicial authorities. Inzko further noted that the past few days have also seen frequent false representations of the status of the state of B&H and the entities’ relation to the state. According to the HR, the Constitution clearly defines B&H as a state “consisting” of two entities, the Federation of B&H and the RS, and it is not “composed” of two entities as repeatedly and wrongly claimed. “B&H is an internationally recognized state whose sovereignty and territorial integrity is guaranteed by the General Framework Agreement for Peace, the Constitution of B&H and the international law – everything that entities are not. Accordingly, the RS is not a state, as claimed by member of the Presidency of B&H Milorad Dodik. Under the Peace Agreement, the entities have no right to secede and exist only by virtue of the Constitution of B&H. Entities are not states, regardless of how often one claims otherwise. False claims about the statehood of the RS will therefore be reported to the UN Security Council,” Inzko said. Finally, he concluded, regardless of attempts to twist facts about the state judiciary, it is firmly grounded in the Dayton Peace Agreement and the Constitution. “The Constitutional Court is a key Dayton institution with exclusive jurisdiction to resolve disputes between different layers of authority. Disrespect for the rule of law in relation to the unconstitutional celebration of the Day of the RS on 9 January speaks volumes in favor of continuing the current arrangements,” the HR concluded.

 

HR Inzko announces he will file report to UN SC because of Dodik’s statements on RS as state, RS politicians strongly criticize this announcement (Nezavisne)

 

High Representative (HR) Valentin Inzko was bothered with messages from marking of 9 January as the RS Day, i.e. by the statement of Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik who said that: “Serbs in this area know that there can be no freedom for Serb people unless they have a state. Serbs nowadays have two states – Serbia and RS”. The Office of the High Representative (OHR) already announced that Inzko will file a report to the UN Security Council (UN SC) because of this sentence. Member of SNSD Presidency and delegate in B&H House of Peoples (HoP) Dusanka Majkic said that Inzko never demonstrated the minimum of desire to harmonize his stances on two entities in B&H and she claimed that he always showed in his statements that he sides with Bosniaks. Majkic added that Inzko’s reaction to the RS Day is a bad message and noted: “The RS is not a state the way Inzko sees it, but it is a state the way the RS citizens see it. It is a republic and a republic is a state, whether Valentin Inzko likes it or not. When a decision on whether the RS is a state or not will be made, Inzko will certainly not be the one to decide on it”. Chair of the Serb Caucus in the parliament of B&H Nenad Stevandic said that both Dodik and other politicians from the RS said the RS is a state on hundreds of occasions. “Our perception of the RS is that it is a state. We feel it as a state. We are very well familiar with the constitutional-legal order of B&H and we know that this is a completely different matter” Stevandic said and added that the RS will file a report against Inzko to the UN SC because he keeps ignoring Wahhabi and extremist movements in B&H. “Inzko has been ignoring potential terrorism in B&H where all citizens of B&H are potential targets, yet he is dealing with filing of reports because of verbal tort of President Dodik,” Stevandic concluded. Deputy Speaker of the RS parliament Milan Petkovic said that the RS, although it has not been internationally recognized as a state, has all elements of a state and this cannot be disputed. “Inzko’s role in B&H is not to act as a tattletale who will report on what is going on in B&H, because the international community sees it clearly for itself, if it wants” Petkovic said and argued that nobody violated the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) on the occasion of marking of the RS Day. “The RS Day was celebrated before Valentin Inzko and it will certainly be celebrated after he leaves B&H” Petkovic concluded. SNSD’s City Board Mostar condemned the statement of Inzko. “We are calling on Mr. Inzko to say why he never publicly advocated sanctioning of those responsible for failure to implement other 70, 80, 90 or who knows how many rulings of the Constitutional Court of B&H? Nobody is even counting anymore the rulings which were not implemented, nor do they take the B&H CC seriously. For all peoples in Mostar the most important is the decision of Constitutional Court from 2010 about elections in Mostar, which was never implemented and therefore the elections in Mostar have not been held ever since 2008,” reads the SNSD statement.

 

Salkic: Announcements about secession of RS endanger peace in B&H (Dnevni avaz)

 

Vice-President of RS Ramiz Salkic warned on Saturday that separatists in B&H are encouraged by the inactivity of the international community and the Prosecutor’s Office of B&H. He noted that the High Representative (HR) has been tolerating for years the violation of the Dayton Peace Agreement and endangering of peace in different ways, as well as the implementation of Bosnian Serbs’ wartime goals with various measures carried out in the time of peace. “Prosecutor’s Office has failed to react to direct threat to constitutional order of B&H, to failure to respect the decisions of the Constitutional Court of B&H, as well as to inciting of racial, religious and ethnic intolerance,” said Salkic. He reminded that war criminals are being glorified for years, while crimes are being denied and victims are being humiliated. Furthermore, Salkic said that only extremely naïve persons can believe that a part of Bosnian Serbs will not try to carry out their threats about secession from B&H. Salkic believes that “extremely nationalist authorities in Serbia and a part of Bosnian Serbs striving towards separatism are directly working on undermining the Dayton Peace Agreement and endangering peace, by announcing the secession of the RS and by talking about two Serb states in the Balkans”.

 

Komsic: Serbia does not respect CC B&H decision by which RS Day is declared unconstitutional (Hayat)

 

Hayat underlines that several Serbian officials attended the celebration which clearly shows that this country does not respect the sovereignty of B&H. This is connected to the fact that Serbia does not respect the decision of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H by which this holiday was declared unconstitutional, said Chairman of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic. After everything that B&H and its citizens went through, Komsic continued, we expected an apology from Serbia not the behavior that resembles the behavior that led to the genocide in B&H during the war. Hayat reminds that Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and Serbia’s Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin attended Thursday’s celebration. Komsic said that this is yet another provocation which threatens B&H sovereignty after Serbia’s publishing of the Strategy of Defense. He noted that this does not pave way to good neighborly relations. “After everything B&H and its citizens went through, instead of hearing an apology from Serbia, we again see strong advocating of policies that led to unprecedented suffering and genocide,” said Komsic.

 

French Senator Meurant: RS Day is proof of patriotism and love for people, there is nothing negative about it (ATV)

 

French Senator Sebastien Meurant was quoted as saying in Banja Luka on Friday that the RS Day is a proof of patriotism and great love for people. “What I saw yesterday in the streets of Banja Luka was a great celebration, a proof of patriotism and great love for one’s own people and state. This celebration only demonstrated the existence of the Serb people in B&H, so I cannot see anything negative about it. Patriotism is important and, therefore, I think that yesterday’s ceremony only showed that every people wants to demonstrate who they are, where they come from and what they are really like,” Meurant said. He added that he saw many people out in the streets, including women, children, athletes and students, so he cannot understand why anyone would mind one people celebrating their existence and their holiday. “As far as 9 January is concerned, I did not see a single sign of aggression or anything bad. I did not even hear a single bad word aimed against the other two peoples,” Meurant said. Together with members of the humanitarian organization ‘Solidarity for Kosovo’, Moran has been visiting the cities and monasteries in “Kosovo and Metohija” these days. He wanted to get informed about the life of Serbs in the enclaves, in order to be able to inform the French public on what the real picture is. “I also visited Kosovo, I saw the Serb houses being burnt down, I saw the people who need to be secured by international forces. That is what aggression is, that is the real picture of aggression,” Meurant said. The reporter noted that jihadists returning to B&H and other countries of Europe is a common topic of importance for both the RS and French people. According to Meurant, Europe cannot defend its borders and it cannot control the situation, which endangers many Christian people, including Serbs. “I think it is necessary to prohibit the return of people who fought against the European culture in general. I think it is absurd that Turkey and B&H have been given the money to welcome and to take care of migrants who include a number of jihadists,” Meurant assessed. Meurant stated on Friday that friendship between the Serb and French people has long existed, adding that the visit of the French parliamentarians shows that it needs to be strengthened by exchanging experiences and students.

 

Russian Embassy to B&H does not agree with assessment that marking of RS Day is unconstitutional (RTRS)

 

The Russian Embassy in B&H reacted to public comments about “the so-called unconstitutionality” of the RS Day. The Russian Embassy in B&H reminded that the decision of the Constitutional Court (CC) of B&H, which many are referring to, does not refer to the Day of the RS, but to one provision of the Law on the Day of the RS. The Russian Embassy stressed that according to that decision, the Day of the RS was not disputed, noting that celebration of 9 January this year was organized in accordance with a decision of the RS Government and that constitutionality of this decision is not disputable. The Russian Embassy in B&H called on all parties, including representatives of the international community, to refrain from negative rhetoric. “We do not share assessments, presented in series of comments about the so-called unconstitutionality of the RS Day. We deem that one should not plant the terms and create problems, where problems do not exist. As it is known, the decision of B&H CC, which many call upon, does not refer to RS Day, but a provision in the Law on RS Day. In fact, it is recognized by B&H CC as contrary to B&H Constitution and it became null and not the RS Day, which was not disputed by decision of B&H CC,” reads Embassy’s statement.

 

West is breaking you apart because it cannot dominate (EuroBlic)

 

Russian expert for the Balkans Elena Guskova, talked about the situation in B&H and RS. Commenting on the fact that the UK has declassified documents testifying that political and military leadership of the RS had no intention to commit or ordered crimes in Srebrenica in July 1995, Guskova said that “everybody, including West” knew that Srebrenica was a fabricated story, “but it was necessary to justify the bombing of the RS”. She said that after the publishing of those declassified UK documents, Belgrade and Banja Luka should start jointly working on “complete dismantling of untruth that has caused immeasurable damage to the entire Serb people”. Guskova explained that it is necessary to ask for other similar documents from the authorities in London, and to assess the possibility of review of indictments and judgements rendered by The Hague Tribunal. “This is the only and the right way to challenge the official version about Srebrenica, thus stopping pressures on the RS and eliminating stigma that is was founded on crimes”. Guskova said that the West considers Serbs to be ‘little Russians’, which is why Serbs are under constant pressure – because West wants to undermine the ties between Serbs and Russians. She also reminded that she attended the marking of the Day of the RS, 9 January, and felt proud, adding that she believes the RS is now one of the leaders in the Balkans and a strong political factor. Guskova concluded that the RS will preserve stability, and reminded that the Dayton Peace Agreement guarantees the RS the status of an entity within B&H. “Serious decisions, such as the issue of possible B&H’s membership in NATO, will be made in the RS in the referendum. People and leadership, however, are striving toward RS becoming a part of Serbia someday. We have talked about this at sessions of the Senate. But the conclusion is that it is not yet time for something like that,” explained Guskova.

 

Dodik and Serbian officials deem there should be discussion on UK government’s document that proves RS leadership had no intention of occupying Srebrenica (ATV)

 

Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik stated on Friday that it is necessary to discuss the document of the UK government “that confirms that there was no intention of the political and military leadership of RS to occupy Srebrenica or to commit crimes”. “There will be discussions about legality and legitimacy of the indictments and verdicts against the Serb wartime staff, which were based on alleged genocide in Srebrenica,” Dodik was quoted as saying while commenting on the announcements that the RS and Serbia could form a joint body that would deal with the events in Srebrenica, after the UK Government’s confidential documents from the past war in B&H were published recently. “Now we hear that the UK officials from that time clearly assessed that it was not the basis, so how is it possible then? Therefore, the indictment is loose and unsustainable, at least. We will certainly have to discuss this,” Dodik said. He added that although some people think that contents of the documents are not important, they reveal the essence of a number of court proceedings against Serbs. “We think this is a part of the essence and a response to the attempts to portray Serbs as ‘satanic’, as well as to false qualifications in the indictments against the political and military leadership of the RS,” Dodik said. Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic stated on Thursday that there is still no official request for formation of the joint body of the RS and Serbia. Nevertheless, he also stressed the importance of talking about what is written in the UK document. Serbian Minister of Defense Aleksandar Vulin stressed that what is written in the documents of the UK government should at least serve as a lesson for the Serb people. In his opinion, it is not a consolation that the UK documents confirm that Serbs are not genocidal people, which the RS and Serbian officials have always been saying, but it is certainly a major recognition. “I cannot help but ask the Srebrenica mothers if they will ask Naser Oric what he actually did, what kind of role he played in Srebrenica, what the UK government wrote, whether the UK government was hiding the truth and how it was possible for them to submit a request for a resolution before the UN Security Council in 2015, which was supposed to declare Serbs genocidal people, although they knew that they were not such people and they knew that Naser Oric was responsible?” Vulin said. The reporter noted that the official document of the UK Ministry of Defense, which was being kept a secret until several days ago, reads that there was no plan to conquer Srebrenica, that Serbs did not plan to enter this municipality and that the attack was provoked by B&H. The document reads that the Serb military entered Srebrenica only after it was established that there was practically no resistance of the RB&H Army, according to the reporter.

 

Plenkovic says EU, UK should show maturity in negotiations (Hina)

 

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has said that in the next few months the EU and the UK should show maturity and negotiate by the end of this year the key areas of their future relations. Brexit is one of the main challenges of Croatia’s presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of this year. The UK is expected to leave the EU on January 31, after which there will be 11 months for negotiations on future relations. British PM Boris Johnson has said he will not seek an extension of the transitional period, which is why Plenkovic believes that in the next few months it is necessary to “show enough maturity and choose the areas in which there is time to negotiate.” “Now we need clarity, predictability and sensible planning for our citizens and our countries. That’s our goal in the next few months,” Plenkovic says. “The Croatian presidency will give the Western Balkan countries via the Zagreb Summit in May a clear European perspective, a clear time frame, but also a methodology for future negotiations,” Plenkovic says. He reiterates that he expects proposals on certain modifications of the negotiating process methodology and an additional progress report for North Macedonia and Albania. He hopes that will result in “a political solution and restore the confidence of those two countries before the Zagreb Summit.”

 

Croatia’s EU Presidency new chance for SE Europe (Hina)

 

Croatian Ambassador to B&H Ivan Sabolic has said B&H will have Croatia’s full support on its European integration path during Croatia’s presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of this year. EU membership is B&H’s strategic goal and the desire of a significant part of its population, he said on Saturday at an event which the Croatian Embassy in Sarajevo organized on the occasion of Croatia’s EU presidency. “Croatia is willing to help B&H on that path with its fresh negotiating process experience as well as its status as a European Union member state. We will push for B&H’s possible progress towards candidate status,” Sabolic said. Croatia now has the chance, in partnership with the member states and all institutions, to make its special contribution to Europe and one of the priorities is strengthening the European prospects of Southeast Europe, he added. “We will push for the continuation of a consistent, effective and credible enlargement policy based on the confirmed European perspective of the candidates and the potential candidates, with the full meeting of the defined criteria. As the youngest member state, we are aware of the transforming power of the accession process. The European idea of unity encourages change, suppresses the syndromes and myths of the past, introduces new rules and new values.” Sabolic said it was clear that European unification could not end before all the Southeast European countries gradually became EU members. Therefore, he said, enlargement should be confirmed as a component of the idea of a united Europe. “We can talk about the pace but we must not bring the goal into question. It’s a process in which no one must give up. It’s necessary to encourage constant and persevering dialogue. It’s a door we want to keep open,” he said.

 

Milanovic’s presidential term opportunity to improve Croatia-B&H’s relations (Hina)

 

A Croatian member of the European Parliament and its rapporteur on the Western Balkans, Tonino Picula, has said that Croatia’s President-elect Zoran Milanovic should use his term to improve relations between Croatia and B&H. Picula said that relations between the two countries had always been friendly and well-meaning but that it was now time for Milanovic to help start resolving outstanding issues in their relations “in a rational way”. He noted that outgoing President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic was partly responsible for the current state of relations between the two countries, which he said was not good. “With occasionally clumsy and unfair statements the outgoing president questioned Croatia’s professed policy towards B&H and the end of her term was marked by a certain lack of ideas in that regard,” said Picula. Picula stressed that regardless of its problems, B&H remained a partner to EU institutions, which expected of it, a commitment to long-announced reforms which it had undertaken to implement. “In doing so it will enjoy unreserved support, primarily from members of the European Parliament,” he said, adding that responsibility rested primarily with B&H and that he expected elected officials to responsibly perform their duties. Picula said that it was high time the Bosnia-EU interparliamentary commission for European integration started functioning. The commission has not met since 2015 due to the demand by Serb deputies in the national parliament that all decisions in the commission be made by consensus, which departs from the usual practice in relations with other countries. Serb deputies have been refusing for five years to accept the proposed rules for the work of the commission. “That is a standard document, adopted by all candidate countries, and that only shows the high level of dysfunctionality and general mistrust within the existing system in B&H,” said Picula. B&H House of Representatives President Denis Zvizdic said in an interview with the Fena news agency on Saturday that it was high time the two countries’ relations started improving, noting that that was one of the things Milanovic’s voters had voted for. He said that relations so far had not been satisfactory. “I’m speaking about (the need for) mutual respect, respect for B&H’s sovereignty and integrity, about frequent and unnecessary interference in B&H’s internal affairs and an unnatural, condescending attitude with regard to processes in &H and the region” said Zvizdic. Zvizdic, who was B&H’s prime minister in the past five years, said that his country and Croatia were historically oriented to one another and commended Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic’s constructive role in strengthening those relations. He warned, however, that despite that, there were still some issues that remained to be resolved such as the construction of the Peljesac Bridge, the possible construction of a nuclear waste disposal site at Trgovska Gora (on the border with B&H), and the status of the property of B&H companies in Croatia. Those issues should be put on the table and discussed based on facts and international law, he said. “I expect Zoran Milanovic to restore (discussions) to the level of institutions… and his visits to B&H to be at the institutional level and not be party or ethnically-motivated visits.”

 

Boskovic: We protected Montenegro’s territorial integrity and independence (CDM)

 

We have ensured a full protection of Montenegro’s territorial integrity and independence by joining NATO and completing the process of integration of the Army of Montenegro into the Alliance last year, Montenegro’s Defense Minister, Predrag Boskovic, stated. This, as well as the fact that in 2019 the capabilities and capacities of the Army were boosted, increased credibility of it (the Army) and the state. Special attention, Minister Boskovic added, should be paid on the modernization of the Armed Forces of Montenegro having in mind that last year they concluded many contracts on the procurement of 67 light armored all-terrain vehicles. Another important fact is that they (the Ministry of Defense) started the renovation of the Army barracks. “In the next few years, they will be renovated, which means the members of the Army will get a new space so that they can use it to perform their activities in the highest possible manner, ” Boskovic said.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Pazin: Law on Freedom of Religion was adopted so that everybody can have equal rights (BBC, 13 January 2020)

 

Government is willing to open dialogue over the application of the Law on Freedom of Religion, Religious Beliefs and Legal Status of Religious Communities. Government is also ready to discuss conditions for the conclusion of a fundamental agreement with the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral, said Vice-President of the Government, Zoran Pazin. “No state in our region, and wider, has the law that has been prepared so carefully and thoroughly, with open consultations with all interested subjects in the state and beyond its borders. This law was adopted so that everybody in Montenegro could have equal right to choose to be a believer or not to be a believer,” pointed out Pazin. He reminded that many public gatherings had been organized starting from 2015 and that Government representatives had had individual consultations with all religious communities on several occasions. “The original text of the law was considerably amended, given the fact that the Government approved of the proposals made by religious communities,” said Pazin. Pazin said he didn’t believe that the incoming elections will be marked by senseless divisions and discussions over which nations and religions in Montenegro “are older or more deserving”. “Montenegro went through too many terrible historical experiences to allow some retrograde policy to bring considerable political advantage to anybody” said Pazin. He concluded by saying that Montenegro’s Government had no reason to shun the facts about the results of its activities. “Owing to such state policy, salaries in Montenegro doubled, tourism revenues tripled, Montenegro is full-fledged NATO member and one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe. I firmly believe citizens of Montenegro know what destruction religious hatred and conflicts could lead us into. Therefore, I know citizens will put their trust in the policy which doesn’t want to divide family members, friends and neighbors,” said Pazin.

 

Von der Leyen: EU must keep its promise to North Macedonia and Albania (Politico, by Jacopo Barigazzi, 12 January 2020)

 

Commission president says she’s ‘deeply convinced’ that the bloc should continue with the enlargement process.

ZAGREB — Ursula von der Leyen chose Croatia, the EU’s newest member state, to deliver a message to the Balkans: the EU must keep its promises on enlargement. “We asked them to do a lot, they fulfilled the criteria so now we have to deliver and to keep our promises,” the president of the European Commission said, referring to North Macedonia and Albania. Both countries were given the green light to start EU accession talks but saw that journey grind to a halt because of reluctance in the European Council, especially from France, which has fears about the impact of further enlargement on the EU decision-making process. Von der Leyen was speaking alongside Andrej Plenković, the prime minister of Croatia, marking the start of the country’s first turn heading the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU since it joined the bloc in 2013.

“The next months will of course be particularly crucial for relationships with the Balkans,” she said, referring to a proposal on how to improve the enlargement process that the Commission is expected to put forward. In November, Paris presented its own proposals on how to change the rules to join the EU. At a meeting of EU leaders in October, they decided to “revert to the issue of enlargement before the EU-Western Balkans summit in Zagreb in May 2020.” The leaders are expected to discuss the issue again in March. The Zagreb summit “will be a potential milestone in this process,” von der Leyen said, warning that “we still have to do a lot of work.” She said the EU will “reflect how we can improve the accession process” but added: “I’m deeply convinced that this should not keep us from taking on the accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania.” Von der Leyen also said there will be a donors’ conference on February 17 after an earthquake in Albania in November that killed around 50 people.

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Belgrade Media Report 17 January 2020

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